What Mandate?

Pierre Soublière —

In all the hoopla surrounding the CAQ’s « resounding victory, » political pundits asserted that the CAQ’s victory and mandate were unequivocal, or that the CAQ had just inaugurated its first mandate. Such a climate of triumph is an outright negation of the fact that elections are not a means of knowing what the people want, nor is it that the people have spoken.

« To mandate » means to give someone the power to act on another’s behalf. For example, if a union wants to get a strike mandate, it will put the question to a vote. Based on the number of votes from its members in support of the strike or not, it will say that it has a weak, strong or no mandate at all. If 24.8 per cent of its members are in favour of a strike, it will conclude that it is far from having obtained a mandate. Often the union requests such a mandate in a situation where the employer, for example, refuses to negotiate, negotiates in bad faith or demands concessions, etc. The mandate must be clear because the members are those who are the first concerned. It is to show the employer that this is not a bluff and that the members are waiting for the go-ahead from their union to stop working, set up picket lines, etc.

If a small number of members take part in the vote, to say that the majority voted for a strike can tell us something about what those who voted want to say. But to say that it is a strong mandate would be a deception.

Considering the above, how can the CAQ act as if it has received a mandate from 24.8 per cent of the polity? This is all the more unreasonable, since contrary to the example provided, such parties make vague promises when seeking what they call a mandate to act in the name of the people. And just as a union would decide that 24.8 per cent of its members is not sufficient to go out on strike because the vast majority did not pronounce themselves on whether or not to go ahead and strike as a pressure tactic, it would also make sense that a party that only received 24.8 per cent of the vote would conclude that its « victory » certainly does not provide it with a « mandate. »

Despite all this, the parties elected and the monopoly media carry on with business as usual, precisely because they want to nip in the bud any discussion over a political process that promotes the election of parties without concern over the real meaning of the results that may indicate all kinds of things, but certainly not that the CAQ has obtained a mandate.